Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Bullis tennis is best in show

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Before each season, Bullis boys tennis 17-year coach Jack Schore personally plans his team’s schedule. He mulls it over carefully, aiming to give his team the best possible competition in accordance with their skill level. And the schedule he crafted this year speaks volumes of what he believes is the best high-school team in the Mid-Atlantic Region, ever.

The two-time defending Interstate Athletic Conference and Ben Johns tournament champion Bulldogs established themselves as the third-best team in the country at the National High School Coaches Association Tennis Invitational April 21.

They followed that result up last weekend with a first-place finish at the New England⁄Mid-Atlantic Championships held at McDonogh in Baltimore, including wins over IAC foe Georgetown Prep (7-0 score), Georgetown Day (7-0) and defending Virginia state champion Robinson (4-3) last week. The win over Robinson, Schore said, likely solidifies the Bulldogs, amid a 40-match winning streak, as the top Mid-Atlantic team at least for this year.

‘‘I have a lot of kids who, at other schools, would say, ‘I’m going to pass on tennis,’” Schore said. ‘‘They play [USTA] Mid-Atlantic and national tournaments and that’s how they’re going to get into college. So, I try to make the season worthwhile for them.”

‘‘We’ve never played Robinson before. It was a great match. They’re a very good team. They beat Flint Hill this year, which was last year’s Virginia prep school champion. I don’t think there are any other stronger teams, so it’s my feeling that match was for the Mid-Atlantic championship.”

Though the Bulldogs (12-0) have already established themselves on a national level this year — they finished fourth among 16 of the country’s top teams at the Corona del Mar Invitational in March and won the Eastern Regional tournament in New Jersey in early April — last weekend’s win at McDonogh was just as gratifying.

Bullis displayed its versatility to edge out 15 talented East Coast teams — it finished with 36 points, ahead of Episcopal Academy (Pa.) in second place with 25 points and McDonogh (21 points) in third.

The tournament was contested in a different format than the national tournaments. Rather than playing dual matches as a team, each player competed in a flight adhering to his position on the team. And the tournament allowed only five entries per each team — Nos. 1-3 singles and Nos. 1 and 2 doubles. Bullis dominated the field, reaching the final in all five brackets, winning three of them.

Bulldogs senior No. 1 Will Beck (19-4), set to play at the University of Kentucky next year, clinched the title with a three-set win over McDonogh’s Andy Peters. Bullis’ No. 2 singles player, senior Andrew Zutz, who’ll play at Notre Dame next year, and junior No. 3 Chris Seckman, both lost in the finals of their respective draws. Seniors Doug Silverstein, who’s lost just three matches the last three years at No. 1 doubles, and Casey Fashouer, won the No. 1 doubles bracket and senior Brian Lee and sophomore Alvin Fludd won at No. 2 doubles.

‘‘This year we prefer the deepest format,” Schore said. ‘‘In a dual match where you’re going six singles and three doubles or four singles and three doubles matches, you’ve got to be deep. But in this tournament format, some teams can come with three really good singles players at the top and do well with that. So, that was a concern. But the boys did a good job. To get to the final in all the brackets, that’s quite a feat.”

The Bulldogs’ quest for their third straight Ben Johns tournament title begins Wednesday at Episcopal High in Alexandria, Va.